Discover the year’s best paddling footwear from NRS, Kokatat, Astral and more. The Paddling Magazine team put these booties, water shoes, sneakers and sandals to the test in real-world conditions, so treat your feet right with our top picks for 2022.
$63.95 | nrs.com
The lightweight NRS Freestyle Wetshoe is so crazy flexible that we can roll it up and fit it in a regular-sized coffee mug. Constructed with a three-millimeter neoprene upper for warmth and a three-mil neoprene insole for added comfort, the Freestyle offers a sock-like feel. Ideal for cramming big feet in small boats and long days kayaking; less suited for gnarly portages and rough, rocky environments.
AMAZON BACKCOUNTRY REI
PFG Tamiami Shoe
$75 | columbia.com
Comfortable and stylish, the Tamiami from Columbia is a worthy water companion. This budget-friendly sneaker is part of Columbia’s performance fishing line and features a water- and stain-resistant mesh upper designed to repel fish guts and grime. Its super grippy, non-marking outsole keeps you rubber side down on slick surfaces, while midsole ports aid ventilation, cooling and dry time. Equally suited to shorelines and martinis at the club.
AMAZON BACKCOUNTRY BASS PRO SHOP CABELA’S WALMART
$140 CAD | keenfootwear.com
Keen’s Newport sandals boast the support and protection of a shoe with the breathability and quick-dry nature of a sandal. The sole of these ultra-comfortable kicks offers good arch support on the topside and is ready to tackle any terrain underneath. Newports have a secure feel thanks to their lace-capture system paired with nylon webbing, and they last for years. No wonder they’re a favorite among paddlers. Keen’s signature toe cap offers little piggies protection. Expect lots of comments with this eye-catching tie-dye pattern—mostly compliments.
AMAZON BACKCOUNTRY BASS PRO SHOP CABELA’S REI
$95 | astraldesigns.com
A minimalist and high-performance water shoe providing first-class grip and comfort? Yes, please. The adaptable Astral Loyak manages to do all the above while looking like a classy, casual shoe. The Loyak is self-draining and dries quickly on the water or packs flat to slide on in camp. Its thin and super-grippy outsole promotes balance and ground feel—what the pros call proprioception.
AMAZON BACKCOUNTRY REI
Creek Boot 2.0
$85 CAD | levelsix.com
The redesigned Creek Boot 2.0 from Level Six is a souped-up version of the classic neoprene bootie. This second-generation, ultra-flexible bootie provides increased stability and durability thanks to a reinforced rubber sole and stiffening in the mid shank for ankle support. Vulcanized rubber extends onto the boot’s three-millimeter neoprene upper, minimizing wear in high use and vulnerable areas, like the toes and heel. Slide on and secure with Level Six’s fast lace system.
$110 | chacos.com
The Z/1 Classic from Chacos is a long-time favorite in the outdoorsy crowd. First released in 1989, it’s not uncommon to hear folks boast of wearing their Classics for 20-plus years. With just a single buckle and one continuous piece of webbing, customizing fit is dead easy. But it’s the traction, durability and versatility that made this the standard for rugged hiking sandals. The stiff and heavy sole of the Z/1 Classic is boot-like in feel and takes some breaking in. No toe thong makes these sandals easy to pair with socks, if you must.
AMAZON BACKCOUNTRY REI WALMART
$69 | kokatat.com
This lightweight high-top bootie from Kokatat appeals to paddlers with its frills-free design. The Scout offers three cozy millimeters of double-lined neoprene and is suitable for all but the most extreme kayaking adventures. The Scout’s tough sole, toecap and heel counter provide good traction, while its hook-and-loop instep adjustment strap provides lateral support for scouting and portages.
$110 | astraldesigns.com
Astral first ventured into the sandal market in 2022. The Webber pairs the chunky webbing of Astral’s award-winning life jackets with its super-sticky G Rubber grip from the Loyak (above). Maintaining a stable shoe-like feel, the Webber sandal offers the adventure footwear triad of adjustability, durability and breathability.
£27.50 | gul.com
Designed with a toasty five millimeters of neoprene and Titanium 2 lining, Gul’s Power Boot is super warm for year-round paddling adventures. A reinforced heel and toe add durability to this bare-bones bootie, perfect for paddlers who want to simplify their kit.
$169 | sportiva.com
The new TX Canyon from Italian brand La Sportiva is a burly water shoe for the most rugged terrain. Designed with canyoneering in mind, the TX Canyon has more support and protection than almost any water shoe. The upper boot uses Ariaprene with hundreds of tiny perforations and two drain valves on the arch to maximize water-shedding. Ideal for kayakers requiring study footwear in demanding conditions.
Sensible shoes, it means practical and strong rather than fashionable and attractive. That’s about right. | Feature photo: Kaydi Pyette